Cruising with Mike and Allison – Nanuya Sewa Island, aka Blue Lagoon, Fiji

August 16 – 17, 2014

16 56.797 S 177 22.028 E

Posting by Barb:

From the caves we went to the location where the rest of Blue Lagoon movie was filmed. It is a very, calm anchorage, which is hard to find in the Yasawas. The first night there we booked IMG_3566ourselves in for a Fijian dinner and Fire Dance show at a nearby resort. The reservation included a water taxi ride to and from the resort. We got all dressed up and waited for taxi. We waited and waited and then came to the realization that it was going to be a ‘no show’. As an alternate plan we decided to go for dinner at the Nanuya resort. We stopped to say hi to our new found friends, cruisers on the yacht from Mexico, Don Leon, super nice people. They invited us to come aboard. They offered Mike and Allison Mezcal, a cheaper form of tequila and that was the end of going anywhere. Pepe brought out a cigar for Mike and from that point Mike referred to Pepe as his buddy and gave him the warm Newfoundland buddy hug.

We did a quick visit of the resort on Nanuya and had a great burger lunch which was accompanied DSC_6282with cold greasy French fries. One of the recommended hikes was theDSC_6292 cross island tour which took us through some of the plantations and the final destination was Lo’s tea House, famous for appearing in Lonely planet. We had cold, expensive drinks and banana bread (a little dry and probably day old leftovers from the batch made for the tourists on the Blue Lagoon cruise ship which had just left).IMG_3586DSC_6318

  On Sunday we went to the church service at nearby village of Sese on Matacawa Levu. They had the usual harmonious singing and then there were a couple of testimonials by 2 Fiji ex-pats (chief’s son working for the UN in NY and a close relative to the chief, enlisted in the army and stationed in Afghanistan). They were there to be with the chief who had a stroke and was not doing well. They did the testimonials in English (for us) and  in Fijian which resulted in a much longer church service. I am not sure the locals, especially the kids who were home for a school holiday appreciated the extension of the normally 1 hour service to 2 ½ hours so that we could understand the testimonials. I am not sure Mike and Allison quite appreciated it either due to the slight hangover they had. The theme of the service was that although the village was very poor, anybody can do great things with ‘hard work’. I am not sure the well-known“it’s Fiji time” culture quite fit the vision of these extraordinary people.  But it was great that our crew, the ‘young ones’, could experience the musicality of the Fijian people who sing in harmony without any instruments, although some much louder than others!  

Cruising with Mike and Allison – Sawa-I-Lau Island, Fiji

August 14 –  15, 2014

16 50.825 S 177 28.059 E

Posting by Barb:

Sawa-I-Lau was the most northerly anchorage for this trip. The main attraction was the caves which had been a film location for the 1980’s movie the  ‘Blue Lagoon’, with Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins. I confess, Denny and I did watch the simply awful movie tDSC_6246o appreciate the Blue Lagoon scenery and the caves that we would visit in Fiji. Not something I would recommend anybody do as it is a painful 2 hours of movie time. We did our first and only Sevu Sevu. We went to the town closest to the caves but it turned that it was not the town that administers the caves. It was Mike’s and Allison’s first and only Sevu Sevu and it was a disappointment. The chief,  who was lying down on his mat, barely sat up to greet us, clapped once and  then told us we were welcome and that we could go. He wasn’t even interested or bothered with some cordial small talk. It is definitely a tradition that is dying. We walked around a little and took pictures of the interesting limestone formations.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEarly in the morning we got ready to visit the caves. We waited for the hoardes of tourist boats to leave and then headed in when it was a little quieter. It cost OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA$100 Fijian for the four of us to enter the  caves and get a guided tour. The first cave had lots of light and we took pictures of ourselves of the rock ledge where the ‘sexually explicit’ Blue Lagoon scene was filmed! The second cave required a 10 – 20 second snorkel under water to the next cave that had no natural light. So that represents two things that give me anxiety, dark tight spaces and an underwater snorkel without being able to pop up for air at a whim. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThanks to Ally, Mike and Denny’s encouragement I faced my apprehension and did the short underwater journey to the adjacent cave. A guide was there at both ends and all I had to do was follow the light at the other end. It was worth it to swim in the dark, eerie cave that has never seen sunlight. Another snorkeling experience for all of us!!

Cruising with Mike and Allison – Drawaqua Island, Fiji

August 11, 2014 – August 13, 2014

17 10.308 S 177 11.183 E

Posting by Barb:

We anchored close to the Manta Ray resort near Drawaqua Island. We could feel that there was a strong current underneath the boat but our anchor could hold us. Our first stop was the dive shop at the Barefoot Resort. There we met Sam, a local working there, who seemed to be very excited to talk about the Mantas that feed in the narrow passage between Navitiy Island and Drawaqua Island. The Mantas come every year from June to October. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey are lazy feeders and they show up during high tide and float the current with their mouths open, feeding on plankton. Sam showed us where to go with the dinghy and then explained that it would have to be a dinghy float down the pass as the current would be very strong. So at 6:30 in the morning, at a full moon high tide, we did our first of many float passes with Denny running the dinghy , although I did have a turn at the dinghy so that Denny could swim with the Mantas as well. The current was very strong and often the OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMantas would do a quick pass under us and sometimes they would come directly towards us and then do OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAa dive to avoid us. DSC_4358Allison experienced a moment where the Mantas did circles around her in a feeding frenzy along with a school of little fish which seemed to have dislocated their jaws to open them as wide as they could to filter in all the plankton.  At 8 in the morning the resort boats showed up with the tourists and then it was a fury of fins and snorkels. The Mantas seemed to patiently navigate themselves around the mayhem. The Manta Ray snorkel was probably one of the highlights for Mike and Ally.   

We celebrated my birthday at the Barefoot Resort with a lovely dinner on the beach and a harmonic Happy Birthday chorus by the staff at the end of dinner. DSC_6181We hiked the Barefoot Hike which took us to a scenic lookout of the boats in the anchorage. DSC_6167We also enjoyed a couple of Happy hours at the Manta Ray resort on the Northern point of Manuva Balavu Island where we did another small hike to explore the interesting rock shoreline. We took a day to sail to Viwa Island for a snorkel but it was too windy when we got there so we had to return to Navadra. But on the way we did catch 3 Spanish mackerel and a Dorado, which Allison cleaned and filleted (well Denny cleaned the Dorado as Allison found the big fish a little daunting).  We also caught a Skip Jack tuna the next day and that was the last fish we caught in Fiji to date!!DSC_6214IMG_3523

Yalobi Bay, Waya Island, Fiji

July 30, 2014 – August 3, 2014

17 18.608 S 177 07.289 E

Posting by Barb:

DSC_6012-1The village of Yalobi perfectly fits the quote “an island of calm in the sea of craziness that can be the modern world”. As we brought our dinghy to shore we were greeted by a couple of young children with big smiles. They brought uDSC_6059s to where their mom was sitting with a display of her local art spread out on a mat. She encouraged us to buy her sea shell necklaces and made us promise that she would be our guide if we wanted to do any hikes near the village. She was very forthright and made it very clear that visiting cruisers was a large part of their income. After a cup of tea and a chat with French cruisers the 3 pre-school children led us to the chief Tom’s house. They were fighting to hold my hand, happy with the “Lollies” that I had pulled out of DSC_6062my backpack and given to them. The Sevu Sevu with Chief Tom was a repeat of the Daliconi village. It appears that the traditional Kava drinking ceremonies are slowly vanishing. Maybe we will get to experience this in the more remote villages.  

While in Yalobi, we did two hikes with different guides and with a few of the other cruisers. Of course one hike took us to another lookout, the other hike took us to a cave that the locals use to take shelter in during cyclones. It wasn’t a deep cave but well protected. During the last cyclone, the locals squeezed themselves into the cave for 2 days! After each cyclone the locals go back to the village and start the rebuilding process and this is something that they accept as a way of life.


The highlight of our stay in Yalobi was the visit to the Primary school. The school is attended by the children of Yalobi and two other neighboring villages. The 200 + kids that range from ages 6 -14 stay in dormitories near the school. The kids start school at 8 in the morning and after school they all have to do ½ hour of chores which includes washing clothes by hand. On Friday afternoon’s they go home and come back on Sunday. Each village is responsible to provide the funds and or food for a year. The families of Yalobi each take turns preparing the food for one week. There are about 50 families so each family would have a turn at least once a year. As we left the school grounds some of the children followed us and wanted us to take pictures of them as they did handstands. They would run back and gather around me as they all tried to look at the pictures on my camera. They would each squeal as they spotted themselves in the picture. Such joy from such a simple act!!DSC_6072DSC_6070DSC_6094

We had our first meal of crayfish and  shared a few happy hours and meals with Robin and Jennifer on Katydid and Zig and Barbara on Sorceress. It was great to share an anchorage with these special people!DSC_6018-1

Mana Island, Fiji

July 25, 2014 – July 27, 2014

17 40.620 S 177 06.431 E

Posting by Barb

It was going to be great to get out of the marina and go somewhere where the water is clean and we can see the fish swimming alongside the boat. We planned to go to a little island nearby called Mana. We were trying not to go to the anchorages that we will be going to with my daughter Allison and her boyfriend Mike.

As soon as we hoisted the main sail, a little tear in the sail started to get bigger. We triple reefed the main but we realized we would have to return to Vuda Marina a little earlier than planned  to repair it. In NZ we will have to look into getting a new sail. At this rate, we will soon have an old boat with all new parts!!

DSC_5886To get inside the reef on Mana Island we had to navigate through a very narrow channel. We went in at low tide and at one point we had barely a foot below the keel and no room to turn the boat and go back out. But we made it through safely. The reef protected us somewhat from the swell but it was very windy and not good for snorkeling. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe island had one small village, 3 backpackers, an exclusive resort and one large resort. Most of the people arrived on the island on a large Catamaran ferry, the ‘Tiger IV’, which made 3 daily stops at a large dock nearby our boat.

On our first hike around the island, we visited the resort facilities. It ranged from a 2 star backpackers resort to a 4 star large resort. We ate at the Backpackers as we thought it would offer some local food rather than the tourist fanfare. It was a disappointment but the entertainment was great. My second hike took me to a nice lookout. DSC_5892Once at the top  I was entertained by a little Woodswallow bird that seemed keen on landing on my head. From there, the trail took me to a very exclusive resort where I DSC_5912was allowed to take a few pictures but then I was ushered on and out of the resort. As I walked along the shoreline on a low tide I spotted a couple of Banded Sea Krait snakes trying to slither up the rock ledge looking for a place to hide. They are deadly venomous but are not killers. Their mouths are so small they DSC_5933would have a difficult time taking a bite unless I stuck my pinky finger in their mouth and that won’t happen. I also spotted a gray heron and he allowed me to get fairly close for a picture. Mana Island was great for walking and a great place to pretend we were tourists  but it was not a good place to go snorkeling because of the wind so we decided it was time to move to the next anchorage, wherever that may be.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADSC_5905

NZ South Island – Heaphy Track

Posting by Barb:

I have always been an avid hiker and was fortunate to live in beautiful Newfoundland, Canada where I was able to hike most of 265 km of the well known, scenic shore ‘East Coast’  trail . The trail took me to the outermost reaches of North America. So I could not be in New Zealand and not do at least one of the 9 ‘Great Tramps’. New Zealand Kiwis refer to hiking as tramping.

DSC_4712DSC_4561We decided to do the 78.4 km Heaphy track as it offered diverse scenery including beech forest,  tussock grasslands, lush forests, nikau palms and white beaches.

Due to some unforeseen transportation logistics as a result of us not doing our homework prior to booking the hike, we did the tramp in 5 days versus  the suggested 3-4 days. As per the website; The Heaphy Track is not a circuit track; the start/end of the track are 463 km apart by road so we had to arrange for transportation and could only book seats on a bus 5 days after the start of our tramp.

I was a little apprehensive about carrying a backpack load for 5 days of ‘tramping’ but we managed to keep our carrying weight to less than 25 kg, thanks to our Kiwi scroggin otherwise known as tasty freeze dried foods. Besides our food we carried our water bladders, warm clothes, rain coat, sleeping bag and of course our cameras.

New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC) offer night accommodations in communal huts for a small fee. The huts  are well equipped with cooking facilities,  bunk beds and pot belly coal stove for the cool nights. So each day we hiked to our designated, pre-booked hut and shared the living space with other hikers from a variety of nationalities and personalities.


There was a Dutch girl (not included in the above picture) that came ready to do the Track with a day pack (i.e. minimal food, n0 additional warm clothing, no raincoat, and no sleeping bag).  Luckily the weather cooperated and she finished the tramp safely. On the other extreme there was a group of 5 NZ friends (also not included in the above picture) all working with the same ‘Construction Company’ that came well supplied with steaks and other fine meals and a vast supply of alcoholic indulgences. I am certain their packs were a lot heavier than 25 kg. We weren’t sure if they were actually going to be able to complete the tramp but in 3 days they were out, leaving behind a trail of stories about the ‘drunken Neanderthals’ , as they were aptly nicknamed by the DOC wardens and other trampers.

DSC_4550-1We did manage to have 2 of the 5 huts to  ourselves.

One of the huts was very small and cozy and instead of the large communal kitchen it had a large fireplace with a pot to cook food over the fire. We planned a romantic night but I was dead to the world before Dennis had the fire going.






The extra 2 days tramping  time that we had allowed us to do a few side trips; one that took us to the top of the world with a fantastic scenic view, another that took us splunking in an ‘off the beaten track’ cave and another that took us to a place for a refreshing skinny dip. DSC_4653

The Heaphy Track brochure highlights the possibility of finding carnivorous land snails and kiwis.  We did find the Powelliphanta snail with a shell that was about 3 inches long and heard but did not see a Kiwi. More pictures of our ‘tramp’ are posted in our photo album.